Chaos Magic: Ritual through Video Games

Note: I wrote this essay on Chaos magic testing exactly four years ago this month and had it up on this blog for a while but then took it down. I’m posting it again in case it is of interest to anyone.

Chaos magic (I prefer this standard spelling to the oft-used ‘magick’) sometimes gets regarded as a kind of slacker magic — if so, then I stand as a slacker among slackers. But Chaos can act kindly to folks like me. I like rituals, but only when I can make them up. I also like some guidelines, but only where I can pick and choose what to keep and toss. For the most part, chaos magic smiles on non-rigidity, and sometimes vomits on it (depending on how much it’s had to drink), but the main goal consists of getting results.
A few weeks ago, I mulled over ways in which to do some free-form magic based on an activity that I enjoy and spend a lot of time on: video games. Specifically, the game Dark Souls, that already acts a sort of alternate life for me when I immerse myself in it. As it so happens, it has a Chaos covenant, with a devotional element to the Fair Lady, who is half-woman, half-spider. The covenant is most useful as the means to a helpful shortcut, and to save an NPC so that he can help with the final boss, but the member also can offer humanities to the Fair Lady to relieve her suffering and to get rank in the covenant.

At the time, I thought, since I’m already doing this for several hours a week, why not do it as a magic act and make the taking of humanities and subsequent offering a ritual act with a clear goal? Then I thought about what goals to aim for as tests. I wanted something simple and non-life changing, but that also would be an obvious success if it happened. On a Sunday night, I decided on two possible scenarios: Someone at my job would say something unusually nice to me, or the UPS driver who brought our packages would be a substitute driver whom I’d never seen before (mostly because I didn’t like our regular driver, and the substitutes were always the same three or four people). Neither of these scenarios were things over which I could control the outcome, nor would really matter to me, so they seemed like simple tests to try out this form of magic.
I never actually did the gaming ritual, I just made the plan to do so in my head.

The next day at work, my boss was walking through, stopped, and said, ‘You’re probably going to think that this is a really odd thing for me to say to you, but you look especially good today.’ Now, I get along very well with my boss and he’s a lot more cheerful and friendly than I am, but neither he, nor anyone else that I’ve ever worked with, has said that to me, and it was a very unusual thing. I kind of laughed it off, but I thought about the ritual that I had planned. Soon after, the UPS truck drove up. Not our regular loud-mouthed driver, but someone completely new that I’d never seen before. But again, I never actually did the ritual.

That night, I thought about what had happened and wanted to make another plan for a future ritual. Since both of the former outcomes were pleasant things for me, one positive and one kind of neutral, I wondered if it would be good to try something that would be more negative. To have someone criticize me unfairly, for instance. This was a pretty vague plan, and I didn’t think about it too much, or even want to do so. I certainly didn’t have a great desire to be criticized.

Two days later, I went to a department store to return an item and unintentionally “jumped” someone in line, for which I received a furtive criticism. Criticism passive-aggressive and sort of unfair (at least from my viewpoint). Yay! More chaos magic success (urgh).

So how could I get success from rituals that I never even carried out? Partly, I think it has to do with the nature of Chaos magic. From what I’ve read of others’ experiences and from my own haphazard experiments, it can work that way. The important element seemed to be making a clear plan and having clear goals, so the results came with little to no further effort on my part. They were all things that were out of my conscious control and normally don’t happen but all had good probability of happening under the right circumstances (good probability is always an important component of successful magic). Giving it some thought since then, I also have wondered if it was a magic result at all; perhaps it was a case of divination, and I simply was plugging into events that already would happen. Or maybe a combination of the two, resulting in a perfect marriage of precognition and magical results. Maybe all the time that I already had spent on the working part of the ritual (gathering humanities and offering them through regular game play) had fulfilled the workings as I plotted them (kind of like long devotion to a god paying off when you finally make a request of that god). Or maybe they were just big coincidences — but coincidences, if they even exist, have their own peculiar sort of magical vibe.

[8.20.17, edited for length]

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Some Thoughts On Divination

Watch out, lady — there’s a floating spirit head right behind you…

I first saw a Ouija board when I was a very little kid and was fascinated with the images on it. Several years after that, I got one for myself but, despite the enticing promises of the movies and religious folks, the spirits stayed silent for me. It turned out to be the most boring board game that I’ve ever played (even worse than Scrabble). Better pictures than Scrabble, though.

Back then, I dabbled with several other divination methods, including astrology, playing cards, and automatic writing. But I mostly spent time on dream recollection and recording of dreams, and I still find that to be the most effective way to get a glimpse past the surface of the physical world. Whether it’s gaining insight into a problem, meeting new people, visits with loved ones who have passed on, or exciting video game-type adventures, you really can’t beat the first person perspective of the dream world.

When it comes to other forms of divination, I’ve given a lot of thought to what I’m really looking for when I do it. When I was younger, I mostly thought of it as a prediction system, but I don’t think of it in that way any more. Obviously, the idea is to gain answers, but it seems a futile and negative past-time to look for definite answers about the future. At best, a divination method may give some general characteristics of what the future might hold, based on the present conditions, but expecting an exact answer negates the reality that the future might be malleable, at least to a degree.

What I found through practice is that divination can lead me to consider a direction or solution that I hadn’t considered before. An example came a few years ago: I had been waking up much too early in the mornings, unable to get back to sleep, so I was drained later in the day and felt kind of bad every day. At that time, I was reading the book Seeking the Spirit of The Book of Change┬áby Master Zhongxian Wu, which offers a unique, shamanic system of the I Ching. I wasn’t putting it to practice, but decided to use it to get some insight into my sleep and health problems. The trigram that resulted was Kun (Earth). Although there are a few body parts that relate to Kun, I sensed that the spleen was the relevant focal point.

Apart from knowing that I had a spleen, I knew nothing else about it or its function. So I looked up information about it from a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, and learned that its function is related to the digestive system, and that cold, raw foods are not very good for it. The recommendation was to eat mostly hot foods. Now, a few months earlier, I had cut meat, dairy and eggs out of my diet, and had been eating a lot of raw fruits and vegetables, with relatively little cooked food. In light of this information about the health of the spleen, I began eating mostly hot food again. One night later, I began sleeping sounding throughout the night again and felt much better as a result.

I can’t say whether there was anything to the divination itself, or not, but I can say that, by doing it, I found a solution to the problem, a solution that I never would have thought of on my own. Despite my interest in matters of the unseen, I tend to be pretty skeptical about the paranormal, and quick to dismiss it as a factor when a physical, logical explanation is more likely. But I like results that work, and at least in that particular case, whether coincidence or not, there was indeed a working result. It doesn’t matter whether it’s “real” or not; it was real for me.